He's a reliable fantasy football producer, putting up good numbers year after year. And then last year the numbers were far below what we've come to expect. You have to guess. Perhaps the player is now in decline, and will never produce high value fantasy points again. Or perhaps circumstance led the player to a down year, and he is ready to return to high fantasy football production.
Several 2008 disappointments lead to this dilemma in 2009 fantasy drafts. I'm (mostly) not talking about players like Tom Brady or Carson Palmer, who missed most of the previous season with injury; whether you draft players like that is dependent on whether you think they've recovered from their injuries. I
From 2002-2007, Tomlinson averaged 2070 yards from scrimmage and 19.8 touchdowns per season; he is one of the greatest fantasy players ever. In 2007, at 29 years old, Tomlinson still produced a solid fantasy season for a first round RB (1536 and 12), but it was not what we were used to, and it was not a season to justify a top-three pick. Worse, Tomlinson has a career 4.4 yards per attempt, and in 2008 had 3.8 yards per attempt, lowest since his rookie year.
Those who draft Tomlinson this season would probably be happy with 1500 total yards and 12 total touchdowns. The question is whether 2008 indicated a decline.
Down year or downturn?
From 2000-2007, Holt averaged 1,384 yards receiving and from 2003-2007 he averaged 9.6 TDs per season. In 2008, on a terrible Rams team, the 32 year old Holt had 796 yards and 3 TDs. He's switched teams, joining a Jacksonville Jaguar team long in need of a good #1 WR. Good wide receivers are often productive into their mid-30s. But is Holt no longer worthy of being a fantasy starter?
From 2003-2007 under the name Chad Johnson, Ochocinco averaged 1,374 receiving yards and 8.6 TDs. In 2008 the Bengals' offense struggled mightily, as Carson Palmer missed most of the season. The 30 year old Ochocinco had 540 yards and 4 TDs. Will the return of his quarterback return Ochocinco to fantasy lineups, or has Ochocinco hit his steep decline?
From 2002 to 2007, you knew what you got from Matt Hasselbeck: about 1.5 TDs and somewhere over 200 yards per game. He's not a fantasy stud, but if you're using early picks on RBs and WRs, he's a solid QB to fill out your lineup. In 2007, he had a career hight 3,966 yards and 28 TDs. In 2008, at age 33, he followed up a career year by missing nine games with injury and generally stinking in the games he played (52.2% passing, 5 TDs, 10 INTs). Should he enter 2009 as a fantasy backup, or as a quality starter for a team focused on strength at other positions?